ISLAMABAD: Muslim leaders attended a rare summit in Pakistan yesterday after militant attacks killed 36 people across the country in some of the deadliest violence claimed by the Taleban for months. The string of attacks on Shiite Muslims and police and troops underscored the immense security challenge in a country where Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists bitterly oppose the US-allied government.
Twenty-three people were killed and 62 wounded overnight in Rawalpindi, the twin city of summit venue Islamabad, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the summit guests. Police said a suicide bomber struck a procession of Shiite Muslims who were commemorating the holy month of Muharram, which is frequently targeted by sectarian extremists in Pakistan. Police used lamps and torches to work through the night and confirmed the final death toll after daybreak. Eight children were among the wounded. It was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since 29 people were killed in the northwestern district of Khyber on June 16 and the worst attack on Shiites since February 17, when a suicide bomber killed 31 people in northwestern Kurram.
The Pakistani Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack. It also claimed an explosion Wednesday that killed two people near a Shiite mosque in Karachi, and attacks targeting security forces in the northwest which officials said left five police dead. In two other attacks for which no one claimed responsibility, militants attacked a police post yesterday on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing one police official and abducting another. In the southwestern city of Quetta Wednesday an army vehicle escorting children home from school was targeted, killing four soldiers and a woman. Pakistani Taleban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, referring to the suicide bombing said that Shiites are “defiling the Prophet”. The Taleban has been fighting an insurgency against security forces since 2007, one of the chief reasons why Pakistan so rarely hosts international events. “It seems the new breed of religious zealots wanted to tell the D8 dignitaries all about the mess the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been turned into,” said the country’s independent human rights commission in a statement. But Pakistan has been determined that yesterday’s Developing Eight summit will present a different image of the country as it gathers together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan to promote trade.
The summit opened more than three hours late with an address from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan intended to hand over chairmanship of the D8 to Pakistan. …